Famous FBI agent and Russian spy Robert Hanssen dies in jail.

Former FBI Agent Convicted of Spying for Russia Dies at 79

The identification and business card of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen are seen inside a display case at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, May 12, 2009. Hanssen was sentenced to life in prison without parole for spying for the Soviet Union and Russia while he worked for the FBI. PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images

Robert Hanssen, the former FBI agent who was convicted of spying for Russia, has died at the age of 79. On Monday, he was discovered unresponsive in his cell at the maximum-security facility in Florence, Colorado. Prison staff immediately began lifesaving measures, but it was too late. He is believed to have died from natural causes.

“Staff requested emergency medical services and life-saving efforts continued,” Bureau of Prisons Director of Communications Kristie Breshears said. “The inmate was subsequently pronounced dead by outside emergency medical personnel.”

Hanssen had been serving a life sentence since pleading guilty to selling highly-classified material to the Soviet Union and to Russia. He began his FBI career as an agent on January 12th, 1976, and his particular role in the FBI allowed him unlimited access to classified documents on the bureau’s counterintelligence operations. In 1985, he began sending classified information to Russia.

When acting as a double agent, Hanssen used the alias “Ramon Garcia.” Throughout his sixteen years of espionage, he passed around 6,000 documents and 26 computer disks to his handlers. It is widely believed by U.S. officials that Hanssen was the one responsible for tipping off Moscow in order to tell them that the U.S. had built a secret tunnel under the Soviet Embassy in Washington for eavesdropping. In return for betraying the U.S., Hanssen received more than $1.4 million, diamonds, and Rolex watches.

After years of being undetected, the FBI was finally on his case when spy Aldrich Hazen Ames was arrested, yet there was still classified information being leaked. Hanssen was set to retire, which resulted in the bureau quickly investigating the situation as they began becoming suspicious of him. They desired to catch Hanssen “red-handed.”

“What we wanted to do was get enough evidence to convict him, and the ultimate aim was to catch him in the act,” said Debra Evans Smith, former deputy assistant director of the counterintelligence division.

In order to convict him, the FBI assigned Hanssen a faux mission which lured him back to the FBI headquarters. In the office they set aside for him, they bugged it with hidden cameras and microphones. It was discovered that he was making a dead drop of classified material in a Virginia park, and he was caught red-handed soon after.

Hanssen was finally sentenced to life in prison in 2002 for espionage. He was sent to the most secure federal prison in the country, which held high-profile inmates, like the Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

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